HELI-SKIING – WHERE TO START?
Written by Betony Garner, Dynastar & Lange ambassador
So you know how to ski off-piste? You love the feeling of floating through fresh powder snow and you dream about being in the high mountains? Like many of us, when you get the off-piste bug you are always looking for that next hit and wondering where to venture to next.
Heli-skiing is something that for many of us is just a dream. We think it would take a mammoth trip to Alaska or Canada, but in fact there is heli-skiing on our doorstep in Europe as well. In fact, if you are new to heli-skiing then a day hit in the Alps could be a good option.
Heli-skiing is not allowed in France, but is readily available in Italy and Switzerland and some parts of Austria, with most companies offering day trips, multi day intro courses or longer classic trips. Day trips can cost as little as £130 per person – but the price will go up if the day consists of more ‘drops’.
So what can you expect? Heli-skiing is about more than just the search for powder, just being in a helicopter is an adventure in itself and it can also be about getting away from the crowds. In the Alps, one minute you can be skiing on a remote high-altitude peak, and the next minute you will be enjoying a coffee or beer in a tiny alpine village. You may stay in one area and do laps (heli-assisted of course!) or alternatively ski a run in one area, then get transported to another area. Normally you will agree the number of drops you do in a day, or sometimes the number of vertical meters/ feet you ski before you set out.
So where do you start? If you are staying in Switzerland, Italy or Austria there may well be a local operator you can hook up with for a day trip, or alternatively you can book a full-on heli-skiing holiday. Here are some ideas if you want to give heli-skiing a go:
If you are staying in the Aosta Valley, there are various heli-operations, including Heliski Gressoney (www.heliskigressoney.com) in the Monterosa area, Esprit Heliski (www.espritheliski.com) on the edge of the Gran Paradiso national park and Heliski Cervina (www.heliskicervinia.com) that will undoubtedly give you amazing views of the Matterhorn.
Serving all the main Swiss areas including Zermatt and Verbier is the Heli Alps operation (www.helialps.ch). They also do sight-seeing trips and VIP transportation.
Photo by: Olly Bowman
The Arlberg region is the place to head if you want to heli-ski in Austria as there are only two designated heli-ski summits in the country – Mehlsack (2,652m) and Schneetali (2,450m). If you are based in Lech or St Anton, the local ski schools offer heli-ski trips (www.wucher-helicopter.at)
Although heli-skiing is not allowed in France, if you are staying in a resort close to the Swiss or Italian border, such as Chamonix, you could hook up with a company who will take you to the heli-ski base with the best conditions. Smart Mountain Guides in Chamonix (www.smartmountainguides.com) are known for their experience in heli-ski guiding.
And Further Afield:
Photo by: Olly Bowman
Elemental Adventure (www.eaheliskiing.com) is famous for running world-wide heli-ski trips and exploring new destinations. They have been operating for many years and as well as running trips to Alaska, Canada and Greenland, they also offer some more obscure destinations such as Greece and India.